United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge.
Government brings this civil forfeiture action in
rem against three sets of night vision devices, or
“NVDs, ” that it is currently holding in
Washington, D.C. In a verified complaint filed June 2017,
the Government alleges that these NVDs were seized as part of
an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
into a scheme designed to circumvent federal export laws and
to launder money. Because they have been designated as
“defense articles, ” NVDs are subject to export
controls under the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. §
2778, meaning that anyone who wants to export them from the
United States must obtain an export license from the the
Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”),
id. § 2778(b)(2). According to the Government,
a Tokyo-based company identified in the complaint as
“Company 1” purchased the NVDs from U.S.
manufacturers in three transactions. Verified Compl. ¶
17. When making these purchases, the company filed export
declarations with the DDTC stating that the end user of the
devices was a branch of the Japanese military. Id.
¶ 18. Each declaration contained the signature of
Company 1's president and that of a Japanese military
officer. Based on those declarations, DDTC issued an export
license for each NVD. Id. ¶¶ 25, 31, 36.
But the Department of Homeland Security later learned that
the signatures purportedly made on behalf of the Japanese
military were forged, and that some of the purchased
equipment was actually being stored in Company 1's
warehouse. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Meanwhile, the
Japanese Ministry of Defense had seized some of the
equipment, and Company 1's president eventually agreed to
return all of it to the United States. Id. ¶
Government's view, Company 1's actions violated three
federal laws: First, the Arms Export Control Act
(“AECA”), which prohibits the willful failure to
obtain an export license before exporting a defense article
to another country, 22 U.S.C. § 2778(c), see 22
C.F.R. § 127.1(a)(1); second, an anti-smuggling
statute that criminalizes the knowing export of any article
contrary to any federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 554(a); and
third, the federal money-laundering statute, which
proscribes the transmission of funds into the United States
with the intent to promote the commission of any
“specified unlawful activity, ” 18 U.S.C. §
1956(a)(1)(A)(i)- including a violation of the AECA or the
anti-smuggling statute, see 18 U.S.C. §
1956(c)(7)(B)(v)(I), (c)(7)(D)-or conspiracy to do the same,
id. § 1956(h). The Government thus contends
that the NVDs are subject to forfeiture under 18 U.S.C.
§ 981(a)(1)(C)-which makes property forfeitable if it
“constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to a
violation of” AECA or § 554(a)-and under 18 U.S.C.
§ 981(a)(1)(A)-which makes property forfeitable if it is
“involved in a transaction or attempted transaction in
violation of” 18 U.S.C. § 1956.
27, 2017, the Government filed a verified complaint alleging
the foregoing. A warrant for the arrest of the NVDs issued
the next day. As required by the Supplemental Rules that
apply to asset forfeiture actions,  the Government gave written
notice to Company 1 and its president-as parties “who
reasonably appear[ed] to be a potential claimant, ”
Supp. R. G(4)(b)-on July 26, 2017. That same day, Company 1
provided to the Government a signed Consent and Agreement to
Forfeiture, in which Company 1 waived any interest it had in
the NVDs. Gov's Aff. Supp. Default ¶ 5 (ECF No. 5).
The Government also published notice on its official
forfeiture website for 30 consecutive days beginning July 26.
Id. ¶ 6. The notice provided that any claim to
the property was due September 25, 2017. Id. No.
such claims were filed. The Government moved for an entry of
default, which the Clerk entered on October 5. It then filed
this motion for default judgment on November 22.
judgment is proper “when the adversary process has been
halted because of an essentially unresponsive party.”
H.F. Livermore Corp. v. Aktiengesellschaft Gebruder
Loepfe, 432 F.2d 689, 691 (D.C. Cir. 1970). When a
plaintiff has moved for default judgment, the Court must
ensure that default was properly entered and, if so, decide
whether the facts stated in the complaint, accepted as true,
entitle the plaintiff to judgment in her favor. See
Boland v. Elite Terrazzo Flooring, Inc., 763 F.Supp.2d
64, 67 (D.D.C. 2011). These same principles apply in
forfeiture actions: when no party has filed a claim to
property that the Government seeks, the Court must ensure
that the Government's allegations show that the property
is subject to forfeiture. See, e.g., United
States v. $10, 409, 585 F.Supp.2d 10 (D.D.C. 2008).
Court finds that default judgment is warranted here. The
Government properly notified potential claimants as required
by the Supplemental Rules. Company 1 has consented to the
forfeiture and no other party has claimed ownership of the
NVDs. Default was thus properly entered. And, based on the
Government's allegations in its verified complaint, the
Court finds that the NVDs constituted or were derived from
proceeds traceable to violations of the AECA, 22 U.S.C.
§ 2778(c); the anti-smuggling statute, 18 U.S.C. §
554(a); and the money-laundering statute, id. §
1956(a)(1)(A)(i). As a result, the Court finds that the NVDs
are subject to forfeiture to the United States under 18
U.S.C. § 981(a)(1)(C) and (A).
Court will therefore grant Plaintiffs Motion for Entry of
Default Judgment and Order of Forfeiture. A separate Order
accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
 The Government describes the defendant
property as follows: (1) two AN/PVS-14 Monocular NVDs,
including two helmet mount kits, two weapon mounts, and two
storage cases; (2) three PVS-14/6015-HPTN Monocular NVDs,
including three helmet mount kits; and (3) two PVS7-3N
See Supplemental Rules for
Admiralty or Maritime Claims & Asset Forfeiture Actions